Star slams door shut on NLEX Cinderella run to book first berth in Governors Cup semifinals
Kristofer Acox rises for the rim-rattler. Jerome Ascano

STAR put up an encore against NLEX as it coasted to an 89-77 victory on Tuesday night to become the first team to advance to the PBA Governors’ Cup semifinals.

After coming from behind frustrate Road Warriors, 101-93, in their last game in the eliminations just last Sunday, the Hotshots followed the same script as they erased a sizeable lead before pulling away in the fourth quarter.

Kristofer Acox continued to show he’s the right fit for the Hotshots, tallying 21 points, 12 boards, three assists, two steals, and one block, while Paul Lee came through with the biggest baskets that kept the Road Warriors at bay down the stretch.

The Hotshots are now waiting for the survivor of the Meralco-Blackwater quarterfinal matchup, with their semifinal series starting on Sunday in Binan, Laguna.

“It’s all about our perseverance, trust in each other, and chemistry on defense,” Star coach Chito Victolero said. “Coming from number seven, naging number four pa kami, so (we just took advantage).”

Indeed, the Hotshots turned to their stifling defense to reassert their mastery of the Road Warriors, holding their opponents to 40-percent shooting on the way to their second-lowest output this season – or after they scored just 75 points in a loss in the Philippine Cup against – you guessed it – Star.

Before their last two games against the Hotshots, the Road Warriors had averaged a conference-leading 105.1 points.

Despite their offense sputtering, the Road Warriors found a way to build a 61-53 lead late in the third quarter, before the Hotshots turned the game around, with Lee scoring on a jumper that gave them their first double-digit lead of the game at 81-71 with four minutes and one second left.

Aaron Fuller led the Road Warriors with 16 points, nine boards, and three assists, but found little help outside Alex Mallari and Kevin Alas.


The scores: 

STAR 89 – Acox 21, Lee 18, Sangalang 14, Pingris 8, Jalalon 7, Simon 7, Brondial 5, Ramos 3, Reavis 2, Barroca 2, Dela Rosa 2, Melton 0

NLEX 77 – Fuller 16, Mallari 15, Alas 14, Fonacier 9, Quinahan 6, Tiongson 5, Baguio 5, Rios 4, Al-Hussaini 3, Taulava 0, Soyud 0

Quarterscores: 23-22, 45-45, 61-63, 89-77

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos